After taking three of four possible points against Detroit, the Jackets looked to extend their momentum with the "Dad's Trip" to Florida this week, beginning with the Southeastern Division leading Tampa Bay Lightning.
One of the keys to this game was taking Steven Stamkos out of the picture. The defense did not really succeed at that goal...
The biggest thing I took from both sides in this game was how evenly matched it was. Despite fears over Tampa's speed, the Lightning weren't really forcing puck possession.
A small (unpleasant) surprise came in goal - as both the starting goalies from the morning skates (Dan Ellis and Steve Mason) would be replaced at game time by Dwayne Roloson and Mathieu Garon - indications are that Mason may have re-tweaked his groin again after "aggravating" it on Monday at practice.
Despite that, the Blue Jackets came out and did all the right things - including getting on the board early. Showing the hustle that has made him one of the favorites in the room and on this team, R. J. Umberger jumped up between Victor Hedman and Brett Clark to grab a long clearing pass from Antoine Vermette, then raced down on Roloson, cutting across the faceoff circle before roofing the puck over Rolocop's blocker side for the opening goal.
Even better, late in the period, the Jackets appeared to have taken a 2-0 lead when Chris Clark grabbed a rebound off of Roloson's pads and stuffed it between his 5 hole. However, the referee (Kevin Pollock) waived the goal off, arguing Clark had made incidental contact. Replay...didn't really support this, but the goal was not reviewed by the War Room.
In all honesty? It was a letter of the law vs. spirit of the law call....I think Pollock may have been TECHNICALLY in the right to rule that Clark was too close to the crease when he played the puck, but looking at the play, I found it questionable that Clark's position would have impacted anything. I would also argue that had the positions been reversed, and it was, say, Vincent Lecavalier or Dominic Moore cleaning up a rebound off of Garon from that position, I don't think the goal would have been waived off.
As coach Arniel said a few weeks ago, it's one of those calls that the team has to earn.
Tampa Bay would take some energy from the waived off goal, and convert it into offense a few minutes later when Hedman fired a long pass just inside the Jackets' blue line to Steven Stamkos.
All three Jacket defenders inside the zone (Wilson, Klesla, Methot) tried to isolate Hedman at the blue line, leaving Stamkos wide open to walk up and score on Garon. That's a failure I have to put on the defenders, particularly Wilson, who left his assignment on Stamkos to go and try a poke check.
In a 1-0 hockey game, DO NOT stop paying attention to the league's scoring leader, for Christ's sake.
Tied at ones, the second period continued a good bit of back and fourth action before Rusty Klesla found himself in the box for a hooking call, and it would be Stamkos, again, doing the damage with a long shot from the top of the zone that bounced in off of Marc Methot's leg.
Rather than getting discouraged, the Jackets got even.
Jake Voracek popped a puck out of the defensive zone to Rick Nash, who raced up the side boards with intent. Charging in, he took a shot that popped over Roloson, hit the cross bar, and sat paitently in the crease for Derick Brassard to ram it home to tie the game with a little less than 5 minutes left in the period.
Despite a few more power play opportunities for both teams, the third period would go scoreless, and the OT would settle nothing, though the Jackets dominated OT with several chances and three official shots on goal, while preventing Tampa from getting a look at Garon.
In the shootout, both goaltenders were on fire - Both Roloson and Garon stopped all the rubber they faced in the first set of three shooters, though Steven Stamkos didn't so much take his shot as slide out of control and away from the goal, firing well wide of the net in the process.
With extra shooters called in, Ryan Malone came in from the far edge of the zone before swinging back in and taking a shot that bounced of the crossbar and into the net to give Tampa the edge, and Antoine Vermette was unable to score 5-hole to keep the contest going.
Final Score: Jackets 2 - Lightning 3 (SO)
It sounds like a platitude, but tonight, the Jackets played really well, and took on an Eastern Conference division leader and came away looking like the better team for much of the contest. They got a point out of the game, and took more positive momentum into the game against the Panthers tomorrow night.
- R.J. Umberger - My god, the hustle. That early goal was art, and though he was unable to find the net again, he got several more good chances - only Brass and Vermette had more shots on goal tonight.
- Derick Brassard - In addition to the tying goal, Brass had 5 shots and had several good looks in OT, including one that nearly beat Roloson but just went wide. ...I hate to second guess the coaches, but honestly, I think Brass should have been one of our shooters tonight instead of Kyle Wilson.
- Mathieu Garon - Garon didn't expect to be going tonight, and turned in a great performance against one of the league's top offenses.
Bottom Of The Barrel:
- Kyle Wilson - Wilson, I love you, you've been a great positive this year, but what were you THINKING turning your back to Stamkos with nothing between you and the goal except empty air? Also, for someone who was money in the shootout, you've cooled off recently. Maybe it's time to practice a new move?
- Kevin Pollock - Dude, when SCOTTY FREAKING BOWMAN gets on the radio / tv / newspapers and says "That was a horrible call" after you wave off a goal, it was a really horrible call.
The Jackets flew from Tampa to Miami (well, OK, Sunshine, but really, Miami) last night, and will take on the Florida Panthers tonight in the second half of the back to back!